It’s with utmost confident that we attest Sonos to be one of the finest examples of consumer technology of the last decade. From the moment it launched in 2005, it changed our perception of audio streaming, from a fiddly computer-based system to an always-on digital music centre.
It was forward-thinking – we still use the ZonePlayer 100 in our setup – and when Sonos integrated Spotify two years ago, it became an the all-you-can-eat jukebox that no other can (still) truly rival.
So what of its latest hardware update, the Sonos Sub? This gizmo is designed to bring meaty bass to your Sonos Play:3 or Sonos Play:5 speakers (the latter was previously known as the Sonos ZonePlayer S5).
Our initial reaction mirrored that of the passionate Sonos community; perplexity at the company’s decision to launch a £600 wireless subwoofer rather than to fill a more obvious gap in its portfolio – a bathroom, garden or portable rechargeable product. On paper, it’s a bold move, but, what’s it like in practice?
Sonos Sub: Build
First up, the Sonos Sub is the most stylised product the brand now has. Open the box and paraphernalia is professionally packaged, while instructions are neatly designed. The unit – about the same size as a DJ’s record box – is finished in black gloss and conceals two ‘force-cancelling’ speakers (powered Class D amps) positioned opposite each other inside the cabinet.
Sonos Sub: Connectivity
The Sub can lay flat or stand upright and has just one button on the side for connecting to your existing setup. It can pair with any amplified Sonos product (ruling out the non-amplified Connect/ZP90 and ZP80 devices) and will also form part of a paired stereo setup using a brace of either Sonos Play:3 or Sonos Play:5 speakers.
Setup is ridiculously easy – we used the iPhone app to connect and automatically equalise the Sub with a Play:5 in less than three minutes – and because it’s wireless (bar the power cable and Ethernet, if you wish), it can be placed anywhere in the room that your speakers are.
Sonos Sub: Audio quality
We tested the Sub with the Play:3, Play:5 and a pair of Mordaunt Short Mezzo speakers connected to a Connet:Amp. Add to either and turn them from good-sounding powered speakers to oh-my-god-where-did-that-bass-appear-from speakers.
The transformation is genuinely impressive; rich and meaty but excellently balanced. Three bass intensity levels are on offer (we stuck with the lowest), with each notch increase rattling more windows and walls. The Sub itself is as solid as a rock, with no discernible vibration. In short, it’s a superb addition and something that genuinely benefits your exiting setup.
It also highlights a classic technological predicament – dial-up to broadband, SD to HD, USB 2.0 to USB 3.0 – well, not so much the last one – that once you’ve experienced life with the Sub, you won’t want to go back. We’d never have said it before, but the Play:3 now sounds weak without it.
However, while Sonos remains a premium product, the premium price will ultimately discourage many. A ‘basic’ Play:3 and Sub costs £860 – easily enough for a half-decent amp, speaker and sub separates system – an aspect that has kept many from making their first Sonos investment. The Sub does nothing but reinforce that notion.
- Simple set up
- Great industrial design
- Superb bass balance
Our verdict on the Sonos Sub is tricky. On one hand you’ve got a mouth-wateringly expensive accessory for an already pricey range of products. On the other, you’ve got a truly brilliant piece of audio engineering that will transform turn your living room into a super club. If you can afford it, buy it. Hell, buy one for every zone in the house. For most of us, though, it’s it’s just too pricey to fully recommend.
Sonos Sub availability: Available now
Sonos Sub price: £599